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In three months, there will be more people age 60 and older living in Colorado than residents younger than 18. That’s according to the 2023 population estimate from the state demographer’s office, shared this week by Gov. Jared Polis during a conference about employing older workers. 

Colorado’s median age is getting higher — 37.2 in 2020, up from 36.1 in 2010, according to the U.S. Census — and adults are working longer. The day-long Age-Inclusive Management Strategies conference tackled misperceptions of older employees and also how employers can keep them in the labor force.

Gov. Jared Polis at the Age-Inclusive Management Strategies conference held in Denver on Sept. 28, 2022. (Tamara Chuang, The Colorado Sun)

But first, in other local economic news, Colorado business leaders apparently took one look at inflation and rising interest rates and changed their minds about where the state’s economy is headed in the fourth quarter. Despite data showing two job openings per unemployed worker, some employers are pausing hires, while others nationwide have had layoffs. The sentiment pushed the Leeds Business Confidence Index to its fourth lowest level in 20 years.

“For this to be a soft landing, for the Federal Reserve not to send us into a more significant recession, we need to have a balance between these people who are getting laid off and those open jobs that are there,” said Rich Wobbekind, faculty director of the Leeds Business Research Division at the University of Colorado Boulder business school. “We need to have the people getting laid off go into these open positions that are available out there.”

This survey asked 163 Colorado business executives about their plans and expectations for the economy and their companies in the fourth quarter, which starts today. The rating measures a company’s expectations for hiring, revenues and profits, as well as capital expenses and state and national outlook. The Leeds report put overall sentiment at 39.8 points, compared with last year’s 56.1 in the fourth quarter and 67.3 in the third quarter. A 50-point mark is considered neutral. 

Colorado business leaders become more pessimistic each quarter in 2022, pushing the University of Colorado’s Leeds Business Confidence Index down to a score of 39.8, its fourth-lowest point in 20 years.

But Wobbekind pointed out that some sentiment is based on personal perception. It’s been influenced by inflation increasing at its highest rate in decades, and ongoing interest rate hikes, which pushed 30-year fixed mortgage rates above 7% earlier this week.

“I don’t think those perceptions are bad or wrong, but they seem to be a little bit more extreme,” he said. “I mean, the economy hasn’t totally fallen off a cliff. It’s got high inflation pressures. It’s got high interest rates. But the flip side is, at least it was true in August, we’re still generating a significant number of jobs. The employment market was pretty solid. I feel like the perceptions are accurate, but maybe a little more negative than the reality.”

Wobbekind and the Leeds team also offered other insight into Colorado’s economy:  

  • 98% of survey respondents said inflation is impacting their business, with 57% planning to increase wages because of it. Nearly half plan to increase their prices and pass the added costs to customers.
  • Colorado’s inflation rate increase is projected to increase 8.2% in 2022.
  • The inflation rate will slow to 4.1% in 2023.
  • The number of jobs in Colorado is forecast to increase 4.1% this year from last year. But the job growth is expected to slow to 1.9% in 2023. 
  • Colorado’s gross domestic product is projected to increase 2.1% this year and 2.8% in 2023. Industries with the largest GDP gains this year include arts and entertainment, and accommodations and food services, with both up at least 20% from last year.
  • Colorado’s personal income growth is expected to increase 5.7% this year.

>> Read the Leeds report

Related: Companies of a certain size must notify the state of pending job cuts as part of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. These public filings, however, have been pretty sparse in Colorado post the rush at the start of the pandemic. Some recent WARNs

  • Security services company HSS Inc. blamed the loss of a contract to provide security services to the Denver International Airport as the reason for eliminating 230 employees by Sept. 30. >> Notice
  • Senior housing company Vivage closed a Colorado Springs facility and laid off 144 people, including nursing staff, in August. >> Notice

Age and tenure’s impact on financial performance

Colorado’s population has been getting older each year as fewer babies are born and residents live longer. But it was still a bit shocking to hear that come 2023, the number of people over 60 will outnumber those under 18. Polis didn’t dwell on the kids during the AIMS conference on age inclusivity, held Wednesday in Denver.

“Our workforce is really our greatest asset here in Colorado,” Polis said. “We want to continue to expand that talent pool, bringing home-grown talent into the fold and that includes Coloradans of all ages. And it comes as no surprise that as people live longer, many people need to, or want to, or benefit from working later into their lives. My parents are 77 and both work full time. My grandmother worked into her 80s.”

The state has been preparing for an older population for a few years now, establishing departments like the Office of Future Work in 2019, creating a program that requires most employers to set up retirement plans for workers, and walking the talk with its own 31,000 employees statewide by testing out pilot programs to prioritize workers with disabilities or grant veterans early priority to job listings. 

Rick Guzzo, cofounder of Mercer’s Workforce Sciences Institute, said that in a survey of about 8,000 workers around the globe, 84% expect to work past normal retirement age. Most said it was to stay mentally sharp, but a similar percent said it was to stay busy or because they needed the money. That left just 16% who planned to retire at age 65, or whatever age they considered as retirement.

Results from a survey of about 8,000 workers around the globe by Mercer found that 84% expect to work past normal retirement age. Most said it was to stay mentally sharp, but a similar percent said it was to stay busy or because they needed the money. The presentation was part of the Age-Inclusive Management Strategies conference held in Denver on Sept. 28, 2022. (Tamara Chuang, The Colorado Sun)

But Guzzo’s point wasn’t that people were working past 65. Rather, it was to show employers the benefits of the older worker. Mercer looked at “thousands and thousands” of employee performance reviews and found that older workers were rarely highly rated, at least compared to younger peers. So Mercer looked deeper into the reviews to determine what was the impact of age and experience on business results. 

The report found that age had a neutral impact on a company’s financial performance. It was tenure, or an employee’s experience, that had a significant positive effect on the company’s performance.

“Age is punished, frankly, but here, we’re saying age shouldn’t be punished, it’s neutral,” Guzzo said. “It’s tenure that has the business value. But the correlation (with age) is that older employees tend to have more tenure. … And the value created by older, tenured employees exceeds their higher costs because older employees tend to cost more, they tend to command higher salaries. … Older workers are seen as expensive. But that’s only half the equation. It can be expensive but if you return more than your costs, you’re good, right?” 

→ View Mercer’s report: “Age, Experience, and Business Performance: A Meta-Analysis of Work Unit-Level Effects” >> Read

Note: What’s Working will explore more from this conference next week and put together a resource list for older workers. If you have suggestions or a story to share about your work experience or hiring older workers, please share them with tamara@coloradosun.com.


Blue Origin launches in Highlands Ranch

Minimalist decor greets visitors to the Blue Origin office in Highlands Ranch on Sept. 30, 2022. (Tamara Chuang, The Colorado Sun)

Aerospace company Blue Origin unveiled its new Highlands Ranch office on Friday. It occupies the sixth floor of one of the office towers off Lucent Boulevard overlooking C-470. 

Nearly 200 employees already work in the facility and there are plans to double in size. The Highlands Ranch crew are pretty much involved in every mission Blue Origin is working on, including the mission to the moon.

Retired NASA astronaut Mike Good, now works for Blue Origin. Good visited the new Highlands Ranch office on Sept. 30, 2022 to meet with other team members working on the lunar mission. (Tamara Chuang, The Colorado Sun)

Retired NASA astronaut Mike Good, who was on the Atlantis shuttle to service the Hubble Space Telescope, flew in for the opening from Washington, where Blue Origin is headquartered. He now works for the company and is part of Blue Origin’s lunar launch, which will first send payloads as early as 2024 and a year later, people, Good said.

So why did Blue Origin pick the Denver area?

“Talent,” Good said.

 >> Job openings


Other working bits

→ $175 million later … Vail Resorts invested $175 million this year in its employees, reports Sun reporter Jason Blevins. That included increasing minimum wage at all its North American ski areas to $20 an hour and investing in housing, training and human resources. The result? The resort was fully staffed this summer and just posted its best year ever. >> Read

→These teachers didn’t leave. While the pandemic heavily challenged educators and many opted to retire early or quit, four share why they dove in with Sun reporter Erica Breunlin. >> Read 

→ Colorado has 500 Google job-training certificates: Job seekers in Colorado can now earn a “Google Career Certificate” and maybe get a good job in technology. The program is supported by the state’s labor department and there’s funding for 500 people to earn a certificate in fields like data analytics, digital marketing, UX design and more. Training takes three to six months part-time and no experience is required to apply. Those interested should contact their local workforce center, which are located all over the state. >> More details, Colorado Workforce Centers

→ Upcoming job fair: 50 employers with a variety of job openings plan to be at a job fair hosted by MSU Denver and The Society for Hispanic Human Resource Professionals on Thursday between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Tivoli Turnhalle, 900 Auraria Parkway in Denver. >> See employers

→ Remote pay cut, what?!: A new survey from GoodHire may blow employers’ minds: 45% of 3,500 U.S. workers said that yes, they’d take a pay cut in order to work remotely. And a large number — 78% — fear remote workers will be the first to get laid off compared to their in-office peers. With the number of tech companies asking employees to return to the office for at least a few days a week, this may raise eyebrows. But keep in mind, GoodHire works for employers by providing background checks. >> Survey results

→ Pay transparency: Colorado was one of the first to pass a law requiring employers to share salary for job openings. California just passed its law. >> Read

→ Jail time for unemployment fraud: Two Iowa women pleaded guilty to taking public money meant for the unemployed in Colorado and other states. Stephanie Mendenhall, 53, from Rockford, who received $35,985 in unemployment benefits from eight states, including Colorado, was sentenced to a year in federal prison. Linda Bosquez, 59, from Sioux City, was sentenced to six months, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. 


As always, share your two cents on how the economy is keeping you down or helping you up at cosun.co/heyww. See you next week! ~ tamara 

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What’s Working is a Colorado Sun column about surviving in today’s economy. Email tamara@coloradosun.com with stories, tips or questions. Read the archive, ask a question at cosun.co/heyww and don’t miss the next one by signing up at coloradosun.com/getww

Tamara Chuang

Tamara writes about businesses, technology and the local economy for The Colorado Sun. She also writes the "What's Working" column, available as a free newsletter at coloradosun.com/getww....